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Hate Mail: NIMBYs Make Pre-Emptive Strike as Old Money Attacks New Money Over Demolition

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[Letters about 226 Edgewood Avenue at the Planning Department. Photo: Philip Ferrato] If you've never been up there, Edgewood Avenue is one of San Francisco's most charming streets, an assemblage of multi-million dollar houses on a wide, brick-paved street in a variety of styles and periods, some with incredible views. It dead-ends into a trailhead for the Parnassus Forest and traffic is non-existent. Nothing new has been built on this leafy stretch in at least a decade, but someone recently said the "D" word, provoking a firestorm of response.
Earlier this year, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and his wife Sara approached neighbors about their intention to replace their house at 226 Edgewood with a new one by Lundberg Design. The blowback was immediate and ferocious. Staff at the Planning Department were mystified by a flood of letters that started coming in before anything had been submitted by the architect, with over 300 form letters produced by "Friends of Edgewood Avenue" from all over San Francisco (and one from Canada) protesting the proposed (but yet to be applied for) demolition. We read through some of them yesterday at the Planning Department, and four were enthusiastically in favor, the rest emphatically not. Many include bitter hand-written postscripts, like the one from a neighbor a few blocks away:

We don't want nouveau riches McMansions sprouting up all over our ridges.Most objectors bemoaned the loss of an "historic" house they'd obviously never seen, and many cited Evan Williams' vast wealth as a founder of Twitter as the real problem, like the ones who suggested he'd be happier in Presidio Heights. It may have once been charming, but the c.1915 Arts & Crafts style house by Louis Christian Mullgardt the Williams want to tear down has been stripped of its dignity and details over the decades, subdivided into apartments and then rebuilt by architect Thomas Eden in what's best described as faux-Frank Lloyd Wright with trapezoidal windows. The views are spectacular. Aside from the fact that Mullgardt is an architectural footnote, it looks like what the nearby neighbors are really objecting to is the loss of the property's overgrown garden, one that does contribute to Edgewood's leafy ambiance- without knowing what's going to replace it and wanting to preserve the street's arboreal patina.

We had a look at Lundberg's plans for the Williams house yesterday, and while it's big, it's also mostly built into the downslope of the hill. The highest point above the sloping street grade is eight feet (twenty feet lower than the existing house) and it will be mostly invisible from the street with three stories set into the hillside. The Williams purchased the house in 2011 for $2,900,000 and images in the gallery from are the old listing.
· Louis Christian Mullgardt [UC Berkeley Archives]
· Evan Williams House: Twitter Co-Founder Faces Protest Over Demolition Of Historic Home [Huffington Post]]
· Lundberg Design [Lundberg Design]
· 226 Edgewood Avenue [NestCube]